September Newsletter

Letter from the President

Dear CUPE 3261 members,

It has been an unprecedented and challenging last 18 months for all of us and each day brings even more major events and announcements, sometimes by the hour. Given this uncertain environment, I wanted to reach out directly to CUPE 3261 members.

As unions, it is our job to ensure the employer meets their obligations to maintain a safe working environment for all workers. Our Executive has been working very hard to bring you all the latest communications with your employer.

U of T’s new health and safety policy

We previously wrote to you with an update on this policy, which you can find here.

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of workers. U of T has announced a mandatory vaccination as a condition for being on campus for workers and students. It is possible to apply for exemptions to vaccination on the basis of medical reasons or human rights reasons, namely creed or religious exemption. U of T has said that workers with approved exemptions from the university will be allowed to participate in rapid testing in place of being vaccinated.

Our collective safety is intertwined, and everyone’s safety should be U of T’s top priority

As COVID variants continue to challenge our health care system, we take the view that the health and safety of workers and students should be U of T’s top priority. If anyone is at risk of unsafe conditions at U of T, we are all at risk. We call on U of T to ensure proper risk assessments of all operating worksites and educational spaces and having a safety plan that accounts for airborne transmission of COVID, including transmission by people who do not have symptoms and people who have been vaccinated.

No single safety control is perfect – we need multiple controls

While immunization is important, other health and safety controls are still crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These control measures include screening, good ventilation, physical distancing, and using PPE. We know that the best way to reduce transmission is to have multiple controls in place, because no single control provides 100% protection from transmission. Workplace safety plans must take into account that one or more safety controls could fail.

Your workplace rights include raising concerns about safety

Your union is working hard to protect all our members’ workplace rights and advocate for our members’ health and safety – as well as your economic stability and income security during this uncertain time. For any concerns and questions about COVID-19 in their own workplace, contact your workplace health and safety committee/representative.

You also have the right to raise any questions or concerns about health and safety with your manager or supervisor.

Further information from CUPE

Further information is available at the following links from our National Union with input from CUPE Legal and CUPE Health and Safety.

We are with you

Our Executive team is committed to providing regular updates to you on our efforts and any changes in the environment that could impact you.

My thoughts and prayers are with you in these times, stay safe and take care of your coworkers, family, friends and loved ones.

Being in a union is about solidarity – and solidarity means taking each of us taking some responsibility to care for one another.

If you have any concerns, feel free to contact me.


Allan James

President CUPE 3261

Bargaining update

As many of you know, our full-time/part-time and casual collective agreements expired in 2020. However, with the emergence of the pandemic, bargaining was put on hold and we negotiated instead a 1-year extension of both contracts. This extension has now expired, and your bargaining team (elected in 2020) has resumed the process of negotiating a new collective agreement. The bargaining team has had several meetings so far and are currently reviewing the agreements. A survey for all members has also been prepared and will be distributed to all members in the coming weeks. 

Currently, we expect direct negotiations with the employer to begin later in the Fall. In the meantime, CUPE 3261 will continue engaging with all of our members and keep everyone updated on the process. Unfortunately, due to the provincial government’s Bill 124, all monetary compensation is limited to an increase of 1% (which includes both wages and benefits). However, we will still continue fighting for important non-monetary gains, such as ending contracting out on campus, better health and safety rules, reducing workloads, increasing staffing, reducing workloads and more. 

Bargaining Support Team 

We are currently looking for volunteers who would like to join the Bargaining Support Team. As a member of this team, you will work closely with the bargaining committee and executive to support the mobilization of members. Your duties would include talking to your coworkers on issues that impact them and organizing efforts to get members more involved in the bargaining process, such as by helping with surveys or encouraging members to come out to events. All members of the Bargaining Support Team would be booked off from work and compensated for their time. If you are interested in joining this team, please sign up here. This is a great opportunity to get involved with the union and to gain some valuable experience!

June Membership Meeting Update

Thank you to everyone who attended our General Membership Meeting last June. During the meeting, we held elections for nine positions. The following members were elected to the executive for the term of 2021-2023. 

  • Edwin Viteri – Vice President
  • Tuan Vuong – Treasurer
  • Wilson Franco – Chief Steward
  • Nancy Tomas – Health and Safety Officer
  • Janny Tran – Faculty Club Representative
  • Anthony Pereira – Full-Time/Part-Time Representative
  • Fernando Ogorek – UofT Press Representative
  • Stanley Treivus – Casual Unit Representative

The 89 Chestnut Representative is currently vacant, however, the union will be working with members to elect a new representative. 

We also elected three new trustees: Stef Kennedy, Danny Tavares, and Reddy Rose. 

Upcoming GMM in October

Our next General Membership Meeting will be held on October 2nd, 2021 from 10 am – 12 pm. We have not yet decided if the meeting will be held in-person, online, or as a hybrid.  

Update on Layoffs

With the recent reopening of the economy, operations at the University are starting to return to normal. Most workers who were laid off during the pandemic, especially food service workers, are now back and working again. A small handful of food service workers at U of T and 89 Chestnut are still on extended layoff but will continue to receive the top-up and remain eligible for benefits until January 2022.

Members of the Faculty Club are still laid off, however, we are hopeful that they will be called back soon in the coming weeks. 

Contracting Out Campaign

Recently, we sent out an email regarding the contracting out of caretaking services on the St. George Campus. As many members already know, at the start of the pandemic, U of T began moving our caretaking staff to other buildings and by August 2020, had fully contracted out 18 buildings to two private companies. This was done to save costs on labour, especially as the pandemic increased the need for increased sanitation and cleaning services. However, instead of hiring more CUPE workers, U of T decided to save money by hiring private companies who pay their workers poverty-level wages with little to no benefits.

CUPE 3261 was told this action was a temporary measure in order to quickly improve cleaning services on campuses. We were also told that these low-wage, private contractors provided “specialized” cleaning services that our members are otherwise unable to do. However, we all know that U of T is more than capable of hiring and training CUPE 3261 members to do this work. Since they began contracting out, U of T has had more than a year to hire in-house workers and get them back into our buildings. However, as of September 2021, U of T informed us last minute that they were contracting out three more buildings on campus. Not only has U of T reneged on their assurance that contracting out was a ‘temporary’ measure, they have doubled down by further expanding it. 

The CUPE 3261 executive cannot fight contracting out on their own. We need all members to come together and tell U of T to put an end to contracting out once and for all. We cannot allow U of T to replace decent work with low-wage and no-benefit jobs. 

We have prepared a template that you can send to the U of T administration. Click here to send them an email. 

If you haven’t yet signed our petition, please do so, and share with your colleagues and anyone else you know in the U of T community. 

Contracting out is a core issue for the upcoming bargaining, and your bargaining team will need the full support of all members to ensure that we can negotiate language to prevent contracting out. You can help by joining our Bargaining Support Team. Sign up here

When we work together, we are stronger. We must demand U of T show real leadership and practice its stated principles of excellence and equity by upholding good jobs for all workers, decent working conditions, and quality health and safety.